Friday, September 2, 2011

A Different Family Reunion

Amy Nichols Peck going to work at the Drug Store.

Family reunions were the annual event of my childhood.  On Labor Day weekend, Mom would snap the whip, and all of us crammed into the old Ford and drove.  The 'whip' was used to get my father to go; he hated all social events like this.  He hated going to his own family’s reunion, so he truly despised going to Mom’s family reunion.  He went; he knew life would be total misery if he didn’t.
John and Mary Nichols, Milford, MI

We always went to Pere Marquette Park along the Illinois River, close to Grafton, Illinois. The park was huge, and for a child, it was an unending adventure.  There are so many stories to tell about that time of my life.

However, I will instead focus on a current family reunion, of sorts.

When my parents died, gleaning through boxes and boxes of stuff became a huge task.  This may take years to do.  I finally opened a gray suitcase that was from my own Grandma Amy, and found such crazy wonderful items.

Art and Marion Nichols Fagan, little Barbara, Neva Stockings
Grandma was a quilter, I knew that already.  Here in this cheap suitcase was a stack of hand-stitched four-square blocks.  

 The fabric was summer-weight voile, which folded over my hand like silken strands.  Neat regular stitches were woven along.  

 I can picture Grandma Amy sitting in her rocker, listening to a record, and stitching carefully.

Great-Grandfather Nichols

Then there were the photos, handfuls of photos.  Some were old, taken before the turn of the 20th century.  Ladies with Gibson Girl hair styles, white high-necked blouses, and long black skirts, children in sailor suits with knee stockings and high button shoes—most of all they were all smiling, with their eyes and their mouths.

Some were posing in stiff awkward poses.
Older photos had trained them to not move no 
matter what.
My grandmother was laughing with her sisters, 
posing and being silly.  She was unlike the Grandma Amy I knew.

Looking at them, I almost was there with them, on the grass, leaning against the porch post, or catching fish.  It was all so real, so familiar.
Milford, Michigan where Grandma Amy grew
A few have names on them.  Most of them do not.  But I see their eyes, and note a similarity with my siblings’ eyes.  The shapes of their faces are like my family’s faces. 

I am attending a photo family reunion.  None of us know each other, but with a little work, I might find out who they were and who they are.

For details on Pere Marquette Park, go to:


  1. It is wonderful to look back in time to see our ancestors and note the same characteristics in this generation. My daughter has my father's dimple, there are 3 generations that we know of with a web toe (not a great thing to pass down) and the many of the smiles seem to be very similar.

    Not having a names to the people in the picture is a shame. Perhaps others in your family can help you out. My mom always wrote on the back of the photo; I can't say the same. I am not always sure who is the baby in the picture of my own children.

  2. Neat photos! And what fun to find those quilted squares! I have a quilt my grandma made that's really cool.

  3. Loved your story. You have some wonderful photos and memories to share. My grandmother had a "shrine" room, the empty front bedroom with all of our photos hanging, and the coffee table with all the old B&W pics beneath the glass. I loved visiting there...

  4. Like you, Susan, I have a cardboard box of sepia pictures, of people sitting or standing tall, not daring to move a muscle.

    I do not know who these people are and I am now the oldest generation and so there is no one left to ask.

    When I was younger, I didn't think to ask and now it's too late. So I encourage you to ask about these photographs if older members of your family are still alive.

  5. What a wonderful suitcase filled with memories. I love this post and hung onto every word. Looking at those pictures, I almost feel the magic as if I was there as well.


Go won' t hurt...I'd love to hear what you think!